Bill Nelson has spent most of his life in education and has faced a vast array of circumstances while wearing many hats during his long career.
However, he probably didn’t go through anything quite like being the Co-Director of the inaugural Nelson Cousin Camp.
Nelson and his wife, Martha, hosted nine cousins of various ages at the summer camp last week at the Nelson village in the sticks near Lovelady. The youngest camper was 4-year-old and the oldest cousin was 18.
I’ve known Bill Nelson for a long time and I always thought he was a bit crazy. But this proves it.
“I don’t know how Bill and Martha survived,” said Terry Swopes, the father of cousins Landon Swopes, Jackson Swopes and Mason Swopes. “I saw them a little bit ago (on Thursday). They looked tired.”
Bill Nelson said it was a fantastic week.
“It’s fun. We’ve had a really good time,” Nelson said on the way to a cousin trip to Lake Murray Thursday afternoon. “Martha has done a great job of finding things to do and keeping things fun and interesting.”
Rumor has it she leaned on the social media site Pinterest to help organize the controlled chaos.
The Cousins Camp was supposed to end around midday Friday. Parents of the cousins had yet to commit to picking their kiddos up at press time.
“We’re assuming the parents — and this may not be true — but we’re assuming they are going to wander in some point Friday to pick up their kids. There’s been some discussion of an extended camp.”
Summer Epps, another proud cousin parent, was leading the charge for the Cousin Camp to continue.
“Does this camp go thru August or until 2021? I didn’t want to pick them up too early,” Summer Epps asked via social media.
Swopes admitted it was nice to have a little peace and quiet around his household last week.
“From a parent’s perspective, I think it’s awesome. I don’t have any kids for a week,” he said, only half-joking. “No, it’s really cool. We have a close family anyway. Any time (the cousins) get to spend time together, they love it and this gives them a whole week together.”
This wasn’t just a week-long slumber party. Bill and Martha kept the kiddos busy from dawn until dusk with a variety of activities that were too numerous to mention them all.
A few of the highlights included:
“They did all sorts of weird stuff. We had timed events where they competed at teams,” Bill Nelson explained. “From who could catch the most minnows at the pond, dog food sack races, egg toss, egg carry and a pogo stick relay.”
Build a Birdhouse
“That was a fun deal. They all got to use the jigsaw. We gave them the plan and said ‘Here, get after it,’” Bill Nelson explained. “Some of them that had never even held a power tool and got to use a jigsaw and a drill.”
Volleyball Grudge Match
“In between all these things, there has always been a family volleyball game going on. They’re pretty brutal about their volleyball,” Bill Nelson said.
Other events during the camp included Flip Flop Decorating, Creating Fairy Jars, planting pumpkins, decorated treasure chests, tie-dyed shirts, hiked in Wintersmith Park, made strawberry jelly (this sportswriter can attest it was great!), made fire-breathing dragons and even held their own Lovelady Parade.
Bill Nelson said miraculously no cousins were harmed during any of the activities.
“The best I can tell they all escaped (without injury) and there was a good chance that might not happen,” he said. “There were definitely some liability issues involved.”
From the sounds of it, a good time was definitely had by all.
“The kids have been unbelievably good sports about all of this. Landon has been Cousin of the Decade. At 18, this is probably not his kind of thing. But what is his kind of thing is family,” Bill Nelson said.
“We’ve had a great time. The little ones have even tolerated it well. The two youngest boys are really free agents. They have the attention spans of gnats. Getting them to do these things had been kind of fun. But they’ve hung in there and done most of it,” he continued. It’s been a fun event for us.”
Bill Nelson would neither confirm nor deny a 2021 Cousin Camp is now in the works.